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An adventure into the Labrador wilderness brings wild brook trout and much more.
Enjoy this Vimeo On Demand video from Tight Loops. You won’t be disappointed!
A story about passion for fishing and sharing it with others.
After a year absence, it was back to Michigan for spring steelhead. Our destination was Baldwin, Michigan an eleven hour drive from Ottawa, Canada. Our hosts were the proprietors of Batchke’s Baldwin Creek Lodge who provided both accommodations and expert guides – most of whom we had fished with before.
There are several steelhead rivers in the Baldwin area but this year, aside from one group of two fishing the Muskegon River for a day and another group fishing the White River for a day, all our fishing was done on the Pere Marquette River.
The portion of the Pere Marquette we fished has both National Wild and Scenic River and Blue Ribbon fishery designations. It’s fisheries population includes resident brown and rainbow trout as well as migratory king salmon and steelhead.
It was the later that were the focus of our attention. Prime time for the the spring steelhead run is during March and April so we were full of anticipation. And while it may technically be a spring run, that doesn’t necessarily translate into sunshine and budding trees. This year the spring has been cool and we were greeted with a certain chill to the start of our trip.
As it turned out, the Saturday forecast for the coming week provided accurate for Sunday but somewhat optimistic for the rest of the week. The forecast snow for Sunday began shortly after we launched and continued through the day. But it didn’t seem to deter the fish and so, neither us.
Monday began with a blanket of snow, clear skies and sun which melted much of the snow through the course of the day but unfortunately, also pushed the steelhead to depths were they could not be seen until later in the day when the sun moved from overhead.
Tuesday began with clouds and the promise of rain but that was ok. The previous two days my fishing had been on the fly fishing section but today we were going to the middle section of the Pere Marquette – new water for me. The conditions proved acceptable to the fish and we in turn had consistent hook ups throughout the day. Fish to the boat, perhaps less consistent.
Wednesday was our last day on the water. Again the forecast called for rain but it held off until early in the afternoon. Through the afternoon showers and claps of thunder were only a minor deterrent as the fish proved generally cooperative.
Our four days of fishing came to an end way too soon.
Its funny how you are aware of a lake, drive by it on the way to other fishing destinations but somehow manage never to give it a try. We live in an area with a lot of lakes that are conducive to warm water species so the pursuit of trout is probably the reason for the oversight.
It turns out my friend Bob, how has fished the local trout lakes more than anyone I know has fished this particular lake numerous times. After one of his recent trips we agreed to fish it together some time.
The time has come. Its been a hot summer – more sustained than normal I think. But an early start promised a good morning of fishing before the day’s heat built up. So we agreed to meet at the lake for an early start – not sunrise early mind you but early enough to beat the heat. Our plan was to fish until about noon.
Based on a recent trip Bob felt the warm weather had driven the fish to deeper water so I rigged a clear intermediate line to start the day. The fly of choice was a gold and brown bead head streamer that was my idea of a minnow imitation.
The lake is long and narrow with the launch at the north end. We were fishing with float tubes and it was unlikely we would make it to the far end in the time we had but I was assured we would have enough action to keep us occupied. And the fish didn’t disappoint. Bob had a fish on before I had time to launch but I had a hit within minutes of launch. The energetic smallmouth surfaced, gave a head shake and was off. An encouraging start.
The action continued although the hits were relatively subtle. In many cases a slight tension on the line was the only indication a fish was showing interest.
Bob motioned to an upcoming rock point indicating based on past experience it was work putting in a bit of extra effort around it. His advice proved to be correct. He had a solid hit from what seemed to be a largemouth but after a few minutes of dogged fight, about a 24 inch pike surfaced. I was informed that the lake also had a population of pike and walleye just for variety.
Another subtle tug first seemed like a snag on the subsurface rocks but it started moving suggesting that might not be the case. Moving this fish from the deep with my 5wt rod was taking some effort but eventually I was able to bring a hefty largemouth.
We continued down the far side of the lake catching fish here and there with enough regularity to keep us engaged. The land along this shore is crown land and cottage free. Later in the morning we decided it was time to return to the launch and crossed over to the other side of the lake. Along the way back we fished around the cottage docks, attracting both large and smallmouth base as we worked our way back. None were extremely large but there were lots in the 1-2 pound range and on 5wt rods we had to pay attention to what we were doing.
Its nice to fish a new lake and have success. This doesn’t always happen but fishing with someone who has been there before definitely increases the odds. Note to self, take more time to explore new fishing spots.
For some time I have been intrigued by the OPST’s Commando Head system for single hand rods. I have been particularly interested in the value for fishing larger flies and the variety of casting possibilities with skagit type systems. This video posted by OPST shows the range of possibilities with these lines.
So anyway, I was curious enough to add it to my Christmas list. I came away with at 200 grain OPST Commando Head that I intended to use with a nine foot 5 weight TFO Axiom rod I like use for smallmouth bass.
That was a few months ago and aside from fooling around with the line in the yard – which is not a good way to evaluate these lines, a couple nights ago was the first time I had was able to get the line out on the water.
In preparation they configuration I used included backing and running line to which the Commando Head was attached. To the business end, I attached a sinking polyleader and a short section of flourocarbon tippet. OPST sells a variety of tips which I think I will look into as an alternative to the polyleader (including floating tips). However this was the setup I had so off we went.
We have been having extremely hot temperatures with high humidity so it was great to get into the water for more reason than one.
There is good wading at this point in the river with lots of places for bass to hide among the rocks.
It didn’t take long to get the basic idea of how the line cast on a single hand rod. I was quite impressed with how the line flew from the rod. While not an expert two handed caster, I was able to experiment with a variety of two hand casts that proved to work well with the line.
All told, first impressions were positive. No question practice will be beneficial – must make a point of doing so this summer.
In recent history Lee Wulff brought Labrador to the fly fishing world and today its hard not to connect wild brook trout and Labrador. But it only takes a few minutes looking at a map to realize Labrador is a massive geography with almost innumerable rivers and lakes. The fishing possibilities are limitless and its not hard to imagine one’s own Labrador adventure.
Chase and Aimee Bartee of Tight Loops Fly are working on just such an adventure and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help offset the cost of their trip. Have a look at their campaign information and see if it can help fuel your own curiosity.
Bass season opened this past weekend. And it was Father’s Day yesterday. And despite spending most of Saturday cleaning the garage, we spent a wonderful evening with friends on a restaurant patio. So all in all – a great weekend.
Late Sunday I headed down to the river to check out one of my evening fishing spots. Its close and usually makes for an entertaining couple hours of fishing.
Last year was a challenge – the river was high all season long making wading difficult. I think I fished here a total of three times last near, never reaching many of the spots I like to fish. So a question was – what would this spot look this year?
As it turned out, river conditions were dramatically different, meaning more wadeable. But a lot had changed over the year. The previous season’s high water and winter runoff had changed the shape of the river reshaping and moving gravel bars significantly.
Tonight was not the time to fully explore the new river. But it was good to see that it was back.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many effective fly patterns I have, when I come across a new pattern I am frequently enticed to give it a try. Often the tier has used it in a particular location for specific purposes that don’t exactly match my own. But whether it is experience or curiosity, my mind comes up with some rationale for why it might work where I am fishing.
The guys at Fly Fish Food are located a long ways from where I do most of my fishing but I appreciate their fly tying videos and often find something that I want to try to replicate for my own purposes.
Next weekend’s trip is to Kenauk Nature for rainbow trout and hopefully a repeat of a great weekend last October. Before that trip I tied a few of Fly Fish Food’s Complex Twist Bugger 2 and they proved very effective on some of the larger rainbows hanging in deeper water. They will be along for the ride again this year.
But a recent repost of Big Ben’s Brown Bugger got my attention. Here is my poor imitation of their fine pattern. We’ll see how it works next weekend.
Fascinating look at bonefish research in the Bahamas.
Always enjoy these guys….